The opposition and history of alliances in Pakistan

(Samreen Ishaq, Islamabad)

We have seen turbulent situation in the politics of Pakistan since its independence. Pakistan continuously been through internal and external challenges in terms of security and politics. If we look at the current political scenario of our country, we have seen our political system divided into many political parties which are divided on the basis of their ideologies, sects, and priorities but when it comes to their personal interests or that serves their political interests all the political parties are on one page in the recent time we have exceptional example of Pakistan Democratic Movement PDM. Under the banner of PDM we have seen opposition in the mood of giving tough time to the present federal government by their strong multiparty alliance.

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has adopted 26 points resolution and at the top it describes as “selected prime minister” and calls for the end of the role of the establishment in politics of Pakistan. Pakistan people’s party (PPP) and (PML-N) seems to be reluctant to take such actions that could derail the democratic political process in Pakistan after the departure of General Musharraf in 2008. There had been multiple attempts in bringing the fractious opposition groups together on one platform to form antigovernmental alliance.

By forming the Pakistan Democratic Movement PDM we have seen comprehensible shift in the stance of the opposition alliance. Now the center of attention for opposition is security establishment that is believed to be real power behind the central government. This new narrative of the opposition alliance has become a clarion call but whether this could help galvanize masses it is the real test of the opposition to bring the people out on the streets with this narrative of establishment role in the civil government of Pakistan.

Making and breaking of political alliances is not a new hall mark in the politics of Pakistan. Different types of alliances were formed when political parties were not given inadequate representation in parliament and democratic process was stalled under authoritarian rules. Political alliances always reach the dead end once the objective are achieved by political coalition, these parties would revert to their old opposition and engage themselves in the struggle for the political power in the country. PDM is formed under different political scenario although political parties have competent representation in the constituent assemblies and have hold up in the power structure as well. It is subsiding democratic space for political parties which brought opposition together against selected not elected government according to the viewpoint of PDM alliance.

Pakistan have a history of political alliances. First alliance of Pakistan was formed against military rule of Ayub Khan in 1964 when five political parties formed an alliance and named it as Combined Opposition Parties (COP). It was an intimidating alliance with its roots in East and West Pakistan. Alliance put up the name of Fatima Jinnah against Ayub Khan for presidential elections. It was an unusual election in which only 80,000 basic democrats who were members of urban and regional councils and set up electoral college for assembly and presidential elections. During campaign Ayub Khan declared Fatima Jinnah as “foreign agent”. Amid the allegations general Ayub Khan won the election of 1965.

In 1967 after two years’ opposition parties again formed alliance incidentally with the same name called Pakistan Democratic Movement which was renamed later as Democratic Action Committee (DAC) for the revival of democracy which was led by Nawab Zada Nasrallah Khan.

In 1977 when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto completed his five-year term and parliamentary elections were held but polls were marred by allegations of massive rigging and several opposition parties formed alliance and named it as Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). Alliance rejected the results of the election of 1977. It was different type of alliance as it was not against military rule or establishment it was against civilian government which had affected trading and business classes by Bhutto’s radical nationalization of industries and private enterprises. As a result of long protests of PNA Bhutto agreed for negotiations and both sides reached on holding of fresh elections.

Movement for the restoration of democracy (MRD) was formed against military regime of General Zia ul Haq. In 1983 a civil disobedient moment was launched and protestors got engaged with military confrontations with the enforcing bodies. It mainly remained Sindh based movement. In April 1986 when Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan she tried to start a moment for new elections but she failed. Death of general Zia Ul Haq left military to choose either to impose martial law again or to hold fresh elections so they opted to have fresh elections but they were also not prepared to shift political field to politicians of that time.

In 2003 PPP and PML-N which were rivals of each other for their political interests formed alliance against General Musharraf and named their alliance, Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD). This alliance never took the ground position. In 2002 general elections took place and PML-N loses in the elections PML-Q formed government.

In 2008 democracy returned in Pakistan in true meanings as general elections took place and PPP won elections with heavy mandate and the democratic political system in the country had begun.

What’s the reason of PDM in 2020?
A new political expenditure against the federal government forced political parties to join hands. Jointly political alliance can put more pressure on PTI government. Main strategy of PDM is smack on government before the senate elections which would give PTI the control of the upper house. Alliance seems to hold strong position as PTI government’s performance is uninspiring.

From the past practice of alliances PDM may not bring down the government or weakens the role of establishment in politics but can put strong pressure and resistance to any authoritarian regime and unity of PDM is also one of the major challenge because when matters become critical decisions needs to be made.

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